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A rant on cutting social programs

2017-03-16 23:08:58.527695+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

I am susceptible to the argument that social programs have a macro-economic effect of raising poverty. Back in my 20s, when I knew less about history and sociology and economics than I do now, I made that argument. So I know where the current administration is coming from with the "cut all of the social programs and let 'em starve" attitudes.

But here's the thing: We have a huge historical resource for what happens when you do that. Nazi Germany was totally big on that, and the killings started not by rounding up huge groups of people and sending them off to concentration camps, but by doctors in homes for the disabled, or treating disabled people, quietly killing off "drains on society". It's only a short hop from there to the elderly, and thence to your least favorite ethnic group, and so on. The slope is slippery, and gets steep pretty fast, and I'm not willing to go there.

There is hope, however: If you want to lower the birth rate among poor people, if you want to reduce the number of children born to parents who can't take care of them, we have lots of data on that about what works. And it works really really well: You give women reproductive choices. You give them birth control. You give poor people social stability and a basic standard of living so that they don't feel it necessary to turn to bad relationships in order to survive.

If you want the next generation to have earnings potential, you give 'em school. You make sure they aren't hungry, so that they can learn. You start that schooling really early, because pre-school and "Head Start" style programs may have no impact on middle class children, but early intervention has a huge positive impact on poor kids.

Similarly, if you want to reduce the number of people in nursing homes, if you want to reduce the costs of nursing care, without starting down that slippery slope of turning people out on the streets to die, which quickly escalates into being "humanitarian" by euthanizing them first, you subsidize some in-home meals (Impact of home-delivered meal programs on diet and nutrition among older adults: a review, Zhu and An, Nutrition and Health (2013)).

All this bullshit "cost cutting"? It's going to fucking kill the economy of the next generation.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Interactive Drama Health Food Handicaps & Disabilities Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: A rant on cutting social programs made: 2017-03-17 04:23:51.621027+00 by: brennen

Testify.

#Comment Re: A rant on cutting social programs made: 2017-03-17 20:15:14.27035+00 by: Larry Burton

I understand where you are coming from and mostly agree with you on the points you make but I can't agree with "giving 'em" anything. Make it accessible, make it truly affordable to the individual, but giving anyone anything through a social program is only going to set the recipient and the program up for failure.

I'm also looking at a lot of the cuts that are being made and thinking that at least the timing is appropriate. Our economy is chugging along pretty good right now and the unemployment rate is relatively low. This is exactly the time for government to start cutting back on spending and paying down debt if you are a Keynesian. Unfortunately I don't believe our overall spending will go down and I don't believe we will pay down any debt.

#Comment Re: A rant on cutting social programs made: 2017-03-18 19:40:07.043221+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Don't know if you got the message, but the "subsidized in-home meals" that Trump "drastically cut" were 97% covered by means other than government. Cutting it out of the Federal budget won't affect it much - especially if the publicity it's currently getting results in more donations. Considering the cut to meals on wheels was part of a much larger block cut, and nothing specifically targeted... Are you still quite so outraged?

#Comment Re: A rant on cutting social programs made: 2017-03-20 14:50:02.838757+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, my work volunteering with folks who've had... challenges... suggests that the base level has to be a gift. At some point the trauma and stress causes so much anxiety that people can't function. Take away that stress and they've got a chance of actually being able to center themselves and get to a state where they could be productive. Or where they're not living from crisis to crisis.

Of course the long-term positive economic impacts of this are predicated on lowering the birth rate in that population.

And with money as cheap as it is right now, I'm not buying too much of the "pay it down" rhetoric. I mean, I'd love it if we could cut "defense" spending, although since that's effectively welfare for middle American manufacturing jobs, that's not gonna happen any time soon.

And I'd also love it if we could start making smart infrastructure decisions, but, again, middle America loves its subsidies.

Shadow, if I hadn't known that to begin with, that would increase my outrage. That a Federal program is getting that much leverage is exactly the right kind of Federal spending.

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